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Did the political art of compromise fail Canada during the pandemic? – CBC.ca

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“I know I’ve said the same thing before every major holiday over the past year,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday as he asked Canadians to avoid getting together for Easter or Passover.

“But this time, what’s different is that even if the end of the pandemic is in sight, the variants mean the situation is even more serious.”

By the time Trudeau spoke, Premier John Horgan’s government already had implemented new restrictions in British Columbia after the daily COVID-19 case count in that province reached a record high. On Thursday, with new infections in Ontario exceeding 2,000 each day for the past week, Premier Doug Ford’s government followed suit. Other provinces presumably will go next, however belatedly.

This was the week the third wave’s arrival became obvious. It only remains to be seen whether this wave will be less painful than the last one — or worse.

When government responses to the pandemic are studied in the years ahead, there will be any number of questions to answer and theories to test — particularly related to preparedness and decisions made during the first four months of 2020.

We had time. Why didn’t we use it better?

But there will be important questions to ask about those second and third waves — especially since we can’t claim to have been caught by surprise.

Maybe that first wave a year ago was never going to be the end of the pandemic in Canada. But did it have to be this bad? After what we learned from the first wave, and with the time everyone had last summer to prepare, shouldn’t we have managed the second wave better? And did governments fail to bury the third wave when they had the chance?

During the second wave in Ontario last fall, Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, argued that the Ford government was approaching COVID-19 as if it were a “political problem” instead of the “public health problem” it is.

Crosses representing residents who died of COVID-19 are pictured on the lawn of Camilla Care Community, in Mississauga, Ont., on Jan. 13, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In the fog of war, it can be dangerous to draw firm conclusions. And each province responded to the pandemic in its own way. But Furness’s words offer a good place to start thinking through what happened over the last seven months.

Politics is reactive. Politicians react to public concerns and crises as they arise. Politicians also tend to seek compromises between seemingly competing interests — such as the greater public interest in curbing the spread of a deadly disease and business owners’ interest in minimizing the effects on their livelihoods.

You can’t make deals with a virus

But an optimal public health response would be proactive and uncompromising in attacking the real problem — the virus.

“A public health approach is marked by proactive, preventative action that can seem unreasonable,” Furness said in an email this week. “A political approach is marked by trying to negotiate between the wishes of the virus and the wishes of people, like having lockdowns take effect after the holidays.”

Trying to calibrate restrictions and policies to find compromises might have been futile. “We’re trying to negotiate with COVID and it’s not working,” Furness said in an interview earlier this year.

A demonstrator marches inside a plastic ball during a weekend protest in Montreal against the Quebec government’s public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Preemptive action can be politically challenging, of course.

“The challenge with this pandemic … is that you really need to react before the problem is apparent and that politically can be really difficult,” said Ashleight Tuite, also an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. “Asking people to make very large sacrifices when it’s not really clear what the sacrifices are being made for can be very challenging.

“It’s a continual problem in public health. Because when it’s working, you don’t see it.”

But more sweeping and faster lockdowns might have offered a greater degree of normalcy to businesses and citizens between outbreaks.

This could have been avoided

Both Tuite and Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, suggest that more could have been done last summer to bolster testing and contact tracing — investments that could have been made last summer. Deonandan also would have gone further to ban non-essential travel when concerns arose about variants that originated elsewhere.

But the larger point might be that the case counts of the current moment and the second wave were not inevitable.

“We understand enough about the virus to mitigate it. We may not be able to eliminate it completely, but we know how to control it,” Tuite said. “And so it’s really a matter of doing all the things that needed to be done. And we just didn’t do that.”

This does seem to be an exclusively Canadian problem. The line graphs for infections in Germany and France, for instance, look broadly similar; French President Emmanuel Macron just ordered a national lockdown to combat a third wave in his country.

Passengers wear protective gear as they wait for a flight at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Enfield, N.S. on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

It’s also easy to wonder whether other provinces could have emulated the success of the Atlantic provinces, which have largely kept infections low within their regional bubble. Have we allowed ourselves to accept higher levels of infection outside of that bubble?

If we go back to work out where the collective response fell short — where the pandemic was approached with a political mindset instead of a public health one — we end up talking about things like paid sick leave.

The wisdom of making it easier for people to stay home from work if they’re not feeling well is obvious. The federal government introduced a new sickness benefit last fall that those who fall ill can apply for, but it falls short of full sick leave, which would be automatic and obligatory.

Health and labour advocates have called on provinces to implement paid sick leave — something that could be particularly helpful for the people working low-income but essential jobs who seem to be suffering disproprotionately from COVID-19. But the provinces haven’t moved.

It’s easy to imagine why they might be reluctant.

Business owners struggling with the impact of the pandemic would balk at having to pay for new sick leave. Provincial governments might dread introducing a temporary program that would be politically difficult to repeal later. And the new federal program might provide a handy excuse for not doing more.

In politics, that might seem like a reasonable compromise. But once this ordeal is over, we might look back and conclude that the moment demanded more than what we thought would suffice.

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Public art, top floor of Kelowna's One Water Street tower revealed – Summerland Review – Summerland Review

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Before showing off the top floor of the tallest building in Kelowna, a 27-foot public art display outside of the One Water Street towers was also unveiled on Wednesday (Sept. 22).

The cast aluminum sculpture named “Ursa” — which stands 30 feet above the ground — was created by Toronto-based artist Pierre Poussin. The abstract, ribbon-like sculpture is a bold outline of a grizzly bear, which Poussin said is a homage to Kelowna’s name, kiʔláwnaʔ, an Okanagan word that translates to male grizzly bear.

“The grizzly bear plays a significant role in the creation stories of the Syilx and Okanagan people, symbolizing strength, power and courage,” said Poussin. “In my conceptualization of Ursa, I wanted to create a sculpture that honours, celebrates and symbolizes the majestic beauty and significance of the grizzly bear.”

The $300,000 sculpture consists of five sections, and Possin said it took about five days to create its design. He went back and forth with fabricator Michael Bilyk of Lafontaine Iron Werks for a month to tweak the outline. It took about six months for the sculpture to come to life, with the finishing touches coming earlier this month.

Ursa’s curves, he added, parallel the curves of Lake Okanagan.

“What is your experience when you look at this? Do you see the bear? Did it take you a while to see the bear? Because that was the goal, to take you a little bit of time to see the bear,” he said.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s next tallest building receives hesitant approval from council

Mayor Colin Basran said that public art is a vital part of building a vibrant community.

“Arts and culture is so important — maybe more important than it’s ever been, in light of coming out of this pandemic. Recognizing that we need to be kinder, more understanding of each other and our backgrounds, and really just supporting one another,” said Basran.

“A great way to do that is through arts and culture.”

The view of Kelowna’s waterfront from the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The view of Kelowna’s waterfront from the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

He commented on the site of the One Water Street east and west towers, saying that the former — which was completed this past summer — has lived up to its expectations.

“I really think that what (North American Development Group) created here is something special. I want to thank you for your investment in our community,” he said. “I think that that investment is again another example of the great things that are happening in our community.”

All but one of the units in the tower have been sold, with the remaining unit being a penthouse worth $12 million located on the building’s 36th floor.

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

Henry Bereznicki, the managing partner of North American Development Group, said that event was a proud day for the development team, highlighting that over 500 people call One Water Street home.

“One Water Street is located at the north end of the arts district. We thought the best way to honour the city of Kelowna and its residents was to commission and present this piece of public art to the residents of Kelowna,” said Bereznicki.

READ MORE: At $10M, Okanagan’s most expensive condo is ready to customize


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aaron.hemens@kelownacapnews.com

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The art and torture of the empire – Al Jazeera English

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Who remembers Abu Ghraib? Why should we remember Abu Ghraib?

Abu Ghraib represents an era of imperial conquest that began in 2003 in Iraq and before that in 2001 in Afghanistan. With its forces now out of Afghanistan, the United States has no reason to remember Abu Ghraib. But the world at the mercy of the whims of this dysfunctional empire does.

Abu Ghraib was a prison complex that took the name of the city near Baghdad where it was built.

For years, Saddam Hussein used it to unlawfully imprison, torture, maim and murder dissidents and political opponents. Then the US took it over to do more of the same.

For people who have been raped, whose bones have been broken and whose souls have been crushed there, it made no difference whether their ordeal was ordered and approved by Saddam Hussein or George W Bush.

But at least Saddam Hussein never pretended to be the duly elected president of a democracy. With George W Bush and his ilk, however, the world had to endure endless denials, and tiresome lectures about “American values”.

‘The United States does not torture’

In 2004, three years into the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, a number of dreadful photographs surfaced that showed members of the US military, security, and intelligence forces physically, mentally, and sexually torturing Iraqi and other inmates not just in Abu Ghraib, but also in Guantanamo Bay and other similar locations in Afghanistan.

These photos the American torturers took of themselves and their victims to send to their friends and families in order to boast of the terror they had been unleashing on Arabs and Muslims soon became iconic – emblematic of an immoral decadence that did not quite sit with the centuries-old propaganda that the US is the “shining city upon the hill”.

Americans were torturing people, maiming and murdering them, forcing them into deranged sexual acts. It was ugly. How could these people do such things?

Soon the global media began spreading these pictures to the point of numbing our senses. Existential questions emerged. The depth of the depravity of the people who did these things to other human beings soon escaped any meaningful registers.

Names such as Specialist Charles Graner, PFC Lynndie England, or Brigadier General Janis Karpinski became synonymous with the horror of Abu Ghraib torture chambers, but names like George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld remained respected and honoured in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Americans soon lost track of these names. Their amnesia eventually led to the election of Donald Trump. Thus, 9/11 became a pathway to 1/6 – the day the US Capitol was invaded and ransacked by the militant white supremacist cult of Trump.

‘The Art of Torture?’

Soon after their publication, a number of artists began to look at these horrid pictures with a different set of eyes, perhaps to enable us to see their horrors better. But did we really need to see those horrors better? Would we not be better off looking at the barbarity of the raw evidence itself?

In a series he called Oh Boy! Oh Boy!, Swiss visual artist Daniele Buetti transformed these photographs into stained-glass mosaics. They looked disturbingly familiar, uncannily beautiful. People who viewed them were put in an odd position: peeping into American torture chambers through a “lovely looking glass”. Were we supposed to be horrified at their beauty or enamoured by their terror?

There was something deeply disturbing about this rush to put an aesthetic turn on torture. I remember my immediate reaction was that was too soon, too early, that these pictures should remain decidedly undecipherable for a while. Artists were in too much of a rush, perhaps out of a basic human instinct of visceral reaction, to decipher them, read them, paint them, interpret them, incorporate them into their own distinct visual vocabularies.

Perhaps the most widely known artistic renditions of the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib were by the Colombian figurative artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero, who in a series of commanding visual renditions of those pictures made their terror look like something people would pay to buy and hang in museums, art galleries, art festivals, crowded Biennales. The frightful facts of what had happened in Abu Ghraib had been registered in a number of crude snapshots sent to friends and family as “souvenirs,” and now widely aestheticised to be consumed by festival curators and art galleries and their customers.

There was something obscene about this whole spectacle. What about the screams of a solitary human being at the mercy of an American torturer? What happened to that cry from the depth of human suffering? In the dark dungeons of what subterranean history did that cry get lost?

Art historians like Helena Guzik began researching the subject of art and torture further back in history and, in learned essays like, Visual Forms, Visceral Themes: Understanding Bodies, Pain, and Torture in Renaissance Art (2014), explored “the implications of Renaissance philosophies surrounding the human body in the context of pain and particularly the physical suffering endured during torture.”

The work of an American artist, Susan Crile, came close to exploring those pictures without rendering them into spaces of faded and fractured abstractions. But still when her work was reviewed in the New York Times, the reviewer coyly said she “hesitate[d] to use the word lyrical”.

Lyrical? Really – depictions of torture?

There remained something deeply familiar about these pictures American torturers took of their Iraqi inmates – they looked like those white racist murderers took of their victims when they lynched them, hanging them from a tree. “Strange Fruit”, the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday called them in an iconic song. The trees bearing those fruits had been planted in Iraq by the selfsame racist thuggery that had terrorised the South, and which had now gone East.

Art of Resistance

Iraqi artists were of course not sitting idly by in face of the US invasion and destruction of their homeland or the Abu Ghraib atrocities, of which they had memories that went further back from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to Saddam Hussein himself.

“It is our duty as artists to feel what our countrymen are feeling and suffering,” Qasim Alsabti was quoted as saying in 2004 when he and 24 other Iraqi artists produced a “series of sculptures, paintings, and installations depicting the horrors of Abu Ghraib at the Hewar Art Gallery in the Wazerieh district of central Baghdad.”

More recently, in 2019, the works of a group of artists from the US, Iraq, and Kuwait were curated in a major exhibition at MoMA PS1, for a reflection back on the horrors their people had experienced at a time when, as a review in the New York Times put it, people had no interest in remembering. Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 was barely noticed by the public at large, despite the fact that there were a few positive reviews of it in major media outlets.

Today you would scarcely find any news item in the US or Europe critically thinking about Abu Ghraib. They have no reason to do so. To the contrary, imperial cultures thrive on their intentional amnesia. History means nothing to empires, except for the delusional mythologies they keep feeding themselves.

There is, therefore, a direct link between the rush to aestheticise and exhibit the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the sudden disappearance of a troubling memory that should have remained indecipherable and troubling for a much longer time. But forgetfulness is precisely how this memoryless empire best survives, by least caring about the trail of terror and destruction it leaves behind as it wages its endless “war on terror”- now its paramount ideology of world domination, at a time when in that very world there is very little left to dominate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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All Aboriginal art is political: you just need to learn how to read it – The Guardian

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All Aboriginal art is political: you just need to learn how to read it  The Guardian



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